OKAY, IT WAS TENNESSEE; HOWEVER …
Here we were thinking that last year's Arkansas team – loser of a school record 10 games and winless in the SEC – was maybe the worst team we've seen in the Southeastern Conference since even before the turn of the century. Well, Arkansas wasn't THAT bad and if you don't believe it, then watch the 2019 Tennessee Vols.
Because the Vols are so bad, there might be a tendency to discount the Gators 34-3 win over UT at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday afternoon. While true that the Gators didn't score a win over what anyone would describe a quality opponent, it was a win against an SEC team with a quarterback starting his first game since his ninth grade year in Manvel Texas some six-plus years ago. That is what matters most. Kyle Trask started a game, got a win and with the win gained the confidence he's going to need moving forward.
It wouldn't have mattered who the Gators played Saturday as long as they (a) won the game and (b) Trask showed all those years on the bench haven't caused his skills to erode. Not only did the Gators win the game, but the defense held the Vols without a touchdown and Trask made enough quality throws that you have to think he's got a pretty high ceiling. One other thing of note: the Gators made it through a game without having someone carted off to the training room to deal with an injury that might keep him out for awhile.
Perhaps one of the more encouraging signs we saw from Trask was his understanding that he's got a whole slew of outstanding receivers. He didn't lock on to one single receiver but, for the most part, scanned the field and got the ball to whoever was running free. Sure, he made some mistakes such as those two interceptions, but we saw far more good things than bad things. We saw enough to know that this Saturday's game with D1AA Towson will give Trask one more game to get comfortable as the starter before the Gators begin a stretch of six straight SEC games beginning with 7th-ranked Auburn.
The Gators still have questions that must be answered, but based on what we have seen in a fourth quarter comeback against Kentucky and a first start against Tennessee, quarterback might not be one of the concerns moving forward.
GATORS REMAIN #9 IN AP POLL; #8 IN COACHES
While the Gators stayed put in the top ten in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, Wisconsin was the big mover and shaker after its blowout win over Michigan. The Wolverines are #8 in the AP poll and #9 in the Coaches. Michigan dropped all the way back to #20 in both polls. The top three in both polls remains the same – (1) Clemson; (2) Alabama and (3) Georgia.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
Clemson 4-0; (2) Alabama 4-0; (3) Georgia 4-0; (4) LSU 4-0; (5) Ohio State 4-0; (6) Oklahoma 3-0; (7) Auburn 4-0; (8) Wisconsin 3-0; (9) FLORIDA 4-0; (10) Notre Dame 2-1; (11) Texas 3-1; (12) Penn State 3-0; (13) Oregon 3-1; (14) Iowa 3-0; (15) California 4-0; (16) Boise State 4-0; (17) Washington 3-1; (18) Virginia; (19) Utah 3-1; (20) Michigan 2-1; (21) Southern Cal 3-1; (22) UCF 3-1; (23) Texas A&M 2-2; (24) Kansas State 3-0; (25) Michigan State 3-1
THE COACHES TOP 25 POLL
Clemson 4-0; (2) Alabama 4-0; (3) Georgia 4-0; (4) Oklahoma 3-0; (5) LSU 4-0; (6) Ohio State 4-0; (7) Auburn 4-0; (8) FLORIDA 4-0; (9) Wisconsin 3-0; (10) Notre Dame 2-1; (11) Penn State 3-0; (12) Texas 3-1; (13) Oregon 3-1; (14) Iowa 3-0; (15) Boise State 4-0; (16) California 4-0; (17) Washington 3-1; (18) Virginia 4-0; (19) Utah 3-1; (20) Michigan 2-1; (21) Texas A&M 2-2; (23) UCF 3-1; (24) Wake Forest 4-0; (25) Southern Cal 3-1
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
(1) Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC): We've known all along the offense was really good with Tua throwing (17 TDPs so far) and all those receivers but now the defense is starting to come around. Alabama held Southern Miss to a single touchdown and just 226 yards. Next week: vs. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-0 SEC)
(2) LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Joe Burrow threw for 16 touchdowns in 13 games last year. He's got 17 through four games this year. He has an uncoverable receiver in JaMarr Chase who caught 10 Burrow passes for 224 yards and four of Burrow's six touchdown passes in LSU's 66-38 win over Vanderbilt. Next week: Open
(3) Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The Bulldogs were bailed out by their defense and a crowd that kept causing Notre Dame to false start in critical situations. The Bulldogs don't have another tough game until the first weekend in November when they face Florida in Jacksonville.
Next week: Open
(4) Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Auburn held off a furious fourth quarter rally in which Texas A&M outscored the Tigers, 17-0, to stay unbeaten overall and win its SEC opener. The Tigers were outgained 391-299. Next week: vs. Mississippi State (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
(5) FLORIDA (4-0, 2-0 SEC): The timing couldn't be more perfect for the Gators to play a D1AA team. Dan Mullen will be able to split up the QB reps among Kyle Trask and Emory Jones plus get the young kids experience they'll need for the two-game stretch coming up with Auburn and LSU back-to-back. Next week: vs. Towson (3-1)
(6) Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC): Jimbo Fisher has to be seriously concerned with a running game that has produced a combined 109 yards against the only two decent teams the Aggies have faced, Clemson and Auburn. Next week: vs. Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Arlington, TX
(7) Missouri (3-1, 1-0 SEC): Since biting the bullet to Wyoming in game one, Missouri has allowed only 21 points and 536 yards in the last three games combined. Next week: Open
(8) Mississippi State (3-1, 1-0 SEC): True freshman QB Garrett Shrader was brilliant in the Bulldogs' 28-13 win over Kentucky, hitting 17-22 passes for 180 yards and running for 125. When Tommy Stevens gets healthy again he might not have a job. Next week: at Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
(9) Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC): The luster has worn off Sawyer Smith. After his poor fourth quarter against Florida, he followed that up by going 15-41 passing against Mississippi State.
Next week: at South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
(10) Ole Miss (2-2, 1-0 SEC): Ole Miss is – and should be – livid over the horrendous job by the Pac-12 officiating crew and replay booth at the end of California's 28-20 win over the Rebels. Television replay seemed to indicate an Ole Miss touchdown but the ball was spotted at the one in the last few seconds and the replay booth didn't see fit to Next week: at Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
(11) South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC): The Gamecocks have a good shot at scoring their second win this week against Kentucky. That's a good thing because the next two games are (at) Georgia and Florida. Next week: vs. Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
(12) Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2 SEC): Ke'Shawn Vaughn had runs of 52 and 41 yards against LSU, finishing the game with a season-high 130. Vanderbilt scored 38 points against LSU and still lost by four touchdowns. At least the Commodores have three consecutive games that they might be able to win. Next week: vs. Northern Illinois (1-2)
(13) Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC): The loss to Florida was a new low in a season filled with lows. At least in the losses to Georgia State and BYU the Vols got worn out in the fourth quarter. Florida wore the Vols out from the moment the game began. There is a really good chance Tennessee doesn't win an SEC game. Next week: Open
(14) Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC): As bad as Tennessee is, Arkansas is worse. When you lose to San Jose State at home, you are really, really bad. This loss seriously increases the odds that Chad Morris won't be gainfully employed in Fayette Nam next season. Next week: vs. Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Arlington, TX
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
It has been a disastrous first third of the season for the American Athletic Conference, which tries to bill itself as a “Power Six” conference. Cincinnati got destroyed by Ohio State, 42-0. Houston lost big to Oklahoma and couldn't move the ball against that porous Washington State defense. And now UCF lost to Pitt. No Power Six this year and certainly no whining that the AAC belongs in the playoff picture.
How can your quarterback (Anthony Gordon) throw for 570 yards and nine touchdowns and you still lose? Not only lose, but to UCLA? Washington State's Mike Leach will get hammered by those questions all week.
Obviously a year of getting misused at Georgia hasn't hurt Justin Fields, who has thrown 13 touchdown passes and run for six more while leading Ohio State to a 4-0 start.
This is kind of scary. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan even though he missed more than half the game with leg cramps. He had 143 yards in the first quarter alone.
How the mighty have fallen. Florida State's official attendance for Saturday's win over Louisville was 46,350. There might have been 1,200 Tennessee fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday.
GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY
From Laken Litman of Sports Illustrated on Michigan after the Wolverines got totally dominated in every phase of the game by Wisconsin:
“Michigan has now lost its last 14 games as an underdog and has only beat one ranked team on the road in the Harbaugh era (Michigan State in 2018). This year was a chance to change the narrative and win some big games. Contend for an Urban Meyer-less Big Ten title and make the College Football Playoff. Instead, just three games into the season, the outlook appears bleak.”
From Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network, who went to Twitter to talk about Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh after the Wolverines were flattened by Wisconsin:
“Congratulations to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Things are looking up. The 21-point loss today to Wisconsin was a slight improvement over the 23-point loss to Ohio State in the last Big Ten outing. Might be time to extend Harbaugh’s contract.”
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports in the ineptitude of Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, who he thinks will fire Jeremy Pruitt so he can hire himself as the HBC:
“Managing a hundred-million dollar budget takes savvy and experience, and Fulmer’s presence is a giddy delight to the rest of the SEC athletic directors. With Fulmer around, they know it’s highly unlikely that Tennessee will remove itself from the underachieving, sputtering punchline that it’s turned into. A non-threatening Tennessee is good news for the Floridas, Georgias and Alabamas, who all have one less game to worry about each season.”
From Illinois coach Lovie Smith after the Illini gave up 671 yards in a 42-38 loss to Nebraska, just a week after he fired his defensive coordinator after a loss to Eastern Michigan:
“We are a better football team. Tonight it didn't turn out that way. There was a lot of factors that led to that, maybe just facing a really good offensive team, but we are definitely a better defensive team.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Jordan Reed might end his NFL career prematurely after the latest in a series of concussions he has suffered. Reed has never played a full season because of concussions and other injuries ... In the first game in years without Eli Manning as the starting quarterback, the New York Giants squeaked out a 32-31 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs … Antonio Brown says he's done with the NFL and promises to never play in the league again. Translation: “Since I can't play for anyone I won't play in the NFL but if I'm cleared of these rape charges and some fool of an owner will pay me, I'll play. I ain't easy but I can be had.”